The Top 10 Professional Life Hacks
Career advice that doesn’t suck
I’m one of the few people who will tell you life hacks that actually work and don’t suck.
Just trust me.
Give the ideas a chance first and you’ll be surprised at how you can make dramatic leaps in your career that others simply aren’t able to make.
These hacks are all based on the idea that most professionals are way behind the times.
They’re still working from the old, stiff, milquetoast style of professionalism that already died years go.
The good news? They’re not changing anytime soon, but you can. And when you do, you’ll run laps around the competition.
- Start a blog — Nat Eliason recently wrote an amazing article called “How to Start a Blog that Changes Your Life.” Thanks to his blog, he’s been able to start a multi-million dollar content marketing company, get 10–20,000 visitors per day to his site, and make $10,000 + dollars per month, upwards of $60,000 some months, directly from his site. The blog helped him land jobs at awesome companies. The ideas he shared and specific articles turned into entire products and businesses. The value of demonstrating your knowledge online and building an audience can’t be understated. Even if you don’t want to be a writer, per se, keeping a blog where you share your ideas has infinite upside and little to no downside. A blogger myself, I’ve built a six-figure living thanks to my skills. I reach millions of readers. I’ve published books. And I’ve received a number of professional opportunities solely due to my writing. Blogging teaches you how to organize your thoughts, building an audience teaches you what people want, and the ripple effects you get from connecting with others online is invaluable.
- Portfolio > Resume — A corollary of the above. Demonstrating your abilities is better than listing homogenous bullet points on a piece of paper just like everyone else. You should aim to be ‘Googlable.’ People should be able to type in your name and have your projects pop up (sorry John Smith, but you know what I mean). Almost any professional field has some equivalent of a ‘project’ you could do to show off your talent. Things like design and coding are very straightforward, but you could apply this to less obvious areas say, accounting, where have a vlog that covers tax tips in an interesting way, something. You want to have some sort of ‘content’ on a website or social media. Content marketing isn’t just a tool for businesses, it’s also a tool for professionals who want to level up and get attention in their field. Make something, share it with the world, wash, rinse, repeat.
- The $.02 strategy for social media networking — Leaving thoughtful comments and adding bits and pieces of your ideas on top of others is a great way to build connections with people in your industry (hint: works well on Medium, too). I’ve gained influential Twitter followers, many verified accounts, by ‘quote tweeting’ them and adding onto their ideas. Here’s the key — you add on to their ideas, not because you want anything from them, but because you’re genuinely interested in the ideas themselves and truly want to expand on them. People can smell inauthenticity. Just find people who interest you and add to the commentary online. Do this often and do it in a casual playful way instead of trying to ‘network.’ All of a sudden, you’ll have a network.
- Get with the times — People keep asking me “Ugh, do I have to create content, have a brand, be on social media, etc?” Kinda, yeah. In the professional realm, people who take this route are going to experience the most upside. You can absolutely have a career that’s ‘just fine’ without doing any of the above, but this post is about professional life hacks. Being ‘out there’ can help you get amazing jobs that aren’t shown on Indeed, it can help you start a business of your own, and you just expose yourself to a broader space of careers. In an age where use these damn phones and computers for everything, why not try to arbitrage that somehow? Why be just a consumer when the upside for producing is, again, infinite?
- The Briefcase Strategy — Credit goes solely to Ramit Sethi for this tactic. When you go in for a job interview, come prepared with your own ‘briefcase’ full of ideas to help the company improve, useful data, and other documentation that shows how your skillset can help the company grow. Imagine you’ve interviewed 100 candidates, yet one comes to you with a proactive plan and took the time to do extra work without first being hired. Exactly. I’ve seen freelancers and entrepreneurs do this as well. They’ll send an annotated document making changes to a prospect’s website or shoot a quick video describing exactly how their services will help the prospect make more money in such a no-brainer way they almost have to accept. Too many professionals wait for the best opportunities to come to them. Instead, show companies why you are the opportunity they’ve been waiting for.
- Start a Side Business — The best professional life hack? Figure out a way to translate the skills you have into something you can use to replace your job. A side business creates a path to the best type of career — that gives you full control. Extra capital from your side business gives you more flexibility to either eventually leave your job or survive if you lose it. Think of how many people got flat-footed during the pandemic. Had they had a side business going, they could’ve used that extra time to really get it off the ground. In general, the confidence you get from building a successful side business spills over into your professional life. You’ll begin to think in a more entrepreneurial way, which will help you have more innovative ideas at your job. You see a theme here? You can’t live your professional life passively anymore if you want to get ahead. You should always be up to something. Even if you don’t want to leave your job, having a side business gives you flexibility and adaptability — two of the most valuable commodities in our current professional climate.
- Rare = Valuable — The rarer your skillset, the harder it is to replace you. The harder it is to replace you, the more opportunities, autonomy, and money you’ll have. Cal Newport calls this ‘Career Capital.’ How do you build career capital? You do many of the things I’ve already mentioned. You build your ‘talent stack’ — Scott Adam’s term for developing a wide array of complementary skills. You’re only slightly above average at each skill, but combined, you’re the best at the intersection of all those skills. In my case, I can write, public speak, and shoot videos. I know content marketing and SEO, I understand psychology and persuasion, I’m decent with social media, etc, etc. I read and study many different fields and have a basic understanding of them, Build a ‘T-shaped’ stack where you develop a deep core competency at one skill or area of knowledge, then use the ancillary skills and knowledge to gain novel insights and strategies for your main field.
- Make up your own job — When I worked at a small digital marketing company as a project manager, I noticed the company needed more broad oversight of everything we were doing — from research into new content marketing techniques, changing our current strategies, and doing inbound marketing for our own company. I pitched them the idea of creating a brand new role. The daily duties? Whatever I thought they should be. I had my briefcase of ideas to present, of course, but I created a new position and a bigger salary out of thin air by taking the initiative to do it. Too many people just wait to move up to the next rung in the ladder. Instead, always look for a way to tailor-make your position to your skills. Always.
- Work to learn, not for money — This is a quote from one of my favorite books, Rich Dad Poor Dad. If you focus on building profitable skills based on your interests instead of focusing on the salary, you’ll make way more money in the long run. Speaking of the digital marketing company I worked for, they didn’t exactly pay me handsomely but I got a marketing education that was vastly better than the marketing classes I took in college — dealing with real clients, seeing how the sales process actually works both internally and helping clients make money, understanding the psychology and politics of business, learning the latest content marketing techniques, etc, etc. Many of the skills I use to make a full-time living as a writer now came from my time at that job. Many professionals are too addicted to salary over knowledge — consider both when you’re looking for your next gig.
- Stop taking your life so seriously — Forget about your ‘career.’ You’re a human being with interests, curiosities, talents, and creative energy. Combine all of that into something that makes you money as a byproduct. Don’t chase the money and status. As Naval Ravikant says ‘Following your genuine intellectual curiosity is a better foundation for a career than following whatever is making money right now.’ There are too many stiff, stuffy, repressed people on LinkedIn. I swear they look like hostages being forced to smile in the profile pictures and their profiles read like cringe AI renditions of a human being’s writing — ‘focused on synergistic solutions’. Yuck. Stop it. Yes, you want to make the shekels, but you also want to have fun. Remember fun? Too many people bow to the altar of professionalism and sacrifice a third of their life doing so. Don’t be one of these people.
Ayodeji is the Author of Real-Help: An Honest Guide to Self-Improvement. Grab your free checklist here — The Ultimate Guide to Discovering Your Natural Talents and Strengths.